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The Revolutionary New Opportunity for Tertiary Education in South Africa

Updated: July 25, 2022 | Published: September 29, 2016

Updated: July 25, 2022

Published: September 29, 2016


High school graduates in South Africa are angry – and for a good reason.

Education in South Africa has deteriorated in recent years, or at least the average number of high school graduates has. Official statistics report one in two of the country’s working age population are younger than 35, and more than a third of this group is unemployed, growing at a frightening rate year after year as more and more desperate young jobseekers enter the market.

Even for those that did graduate from high school, with limited availability in local universities and the cost of higher education, too many bright, ambitious, young people are being left behind.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s Time to Make University Education in South Africa Accessible to Everyone

South African education shouldn’t be a privilege of the rich. It’s time for education in Africa to be valued for what it is – a vehicle for economic growth and development. It should be democratised and available to anyone who works hard.

That’s why online, tuition-free universities, like the University of the People, were created. True, there are expenses, and you still need to pay $100 for every test. But that means you’ll only pay $4,000 for your entire bachelor’s degree or $2,000 for an associate’s degree.

Some local, brick and mortar universities charge South African students up to $4,550 (64,500 South African rand) per year without the added consideration of transport, accommodation and living expenses

Isn’t it Suspicious that a Real University Charges Only $4,000 for an Entire Degree Just Because it’s Online?

The fact that universities like the University of the People conduct classes and administration exclusively online, opening the door for cost-saving, realistically translates into low costs for South African students and other students from around the globe. Every organisation has its expenses, but online, there isn’t a huge campus to take care of. There are no enormous electricity bills, rent or mortgage bills, maintenance and repairs bills, or enormous city rates and taxes.

Similarly, there’s no limit to how many students an online university can serve at the same time. Instead of increasing cost per student, an online university can simply get more students into each programme, without necessarily increasing the cost of academic support staff or dropping standards due to oversubscribed programmes.

As our founder and president, Shai Reshef, told, around 3,000 professors have offered to donate their time to the University of the People and its students, in order to open “the gates to higher education for all, regardless of geographic, financial, cultural or personal constraints”. The University of the People selects the top 10% of instructors who want to volunteer here, and that alone saves us a ton of money.

But still, when you choose an online university, you want to make sure you’re really getting what you’re paying for.

How South African Students Can Make Sure They’re Choosing a Reliable Online University, Whose Degree Will Actually Make a Difference in Their Lives


Clearly, with so many high school graduates hungry for a fair chance in South African education, it’s easy for big companies to come in, make big promises, take your money and leave you hanging.

That’s why you need to do some research and figure out the questions to these answers:

  • Does the university grant actual academic degrees?
  • Does it offer courses by reliable and respected universities and/or professors?
  • Does it have a high course completion rate?
  • Does the university offer you scholarships and internship opportunities from reliable and respected organizations?
  • Does it provide personalised support?
  • Do the university’s students testify that they’ve used what they learned in this university’s courses in real life?
  • Does the university have high retention rates?

With the University of the People, for example, you can answer yes to all questions:

  • Yes, the University of the People grants actual degrees, not just an online course here and there.
  • Yes, our academic partners include prestigious universities like New York University, and UC Berkeley.
  • Yes, we have a high course completion rate.
  • Yes, our corporate partners include Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
  • Yes, we offer instructor availability, peer to peer support, student services and academic advisors. In our most recent student satisfaction survey, students said they’ve sought advice from our team, and 92% have found it useful.
  • Yes, students have stated that they engage in using the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in courses in their daily lives and workplaces.
  • Yes, as our founder and president told, the average first to second year retention rate at the University of the People is around 80%. But it’s even higher for South African students – the retention rate here is 90%. In the satisfaction survey, 94% of students said they’d likely or definitely enroll in the University of the People again. The majority – 74% – said they’ll definitely continue studying here.

Applying to University of the People 

If you dream of being able to get a university education, UoPeople might the place for you.  At 18 or older, and with a matric certificate and proficiency in English, you could apply right now for a bachelor’s in Computer Science or Business Administration, or even Health Science. You could make a difference and change the paradigm from #Fees2017 to #OpenEd